Thursday, August 21, 2014

UVA Graduation AND a big anniversary for Reagan!

WAHOO! And just like that we're done and Reagan has graduated from UVA constraint therapy for the third time! Ok, who am I kidding….I feel like we've been here forever and we are all exhausted.  We started with a quick trip to the Bounce-n-Play to run around before heading to the hospital at 1pm.  Emily took Cole to the Downtown Mall to visit the outdoor carousel while I sat and waited for Reagan.

Reagan played several games today to include one where she had to practice making a fist and playing Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo with the cards on the table.  Although making a fist isn't difficult, she had to supinate her wrist to hit the table with her fist as you can see Ms. Sue doing.  With the same game (Funny faces) she had to pick the cards up and stack them.  Also a very tough task that requires supination and wrist extension.

Since today was her last day the focus was on explaining the skills she should be taking home and practicing.  A big focus was on "floating lefty" and the fact that lefty needs to help and not just "sit around on vacation".  I know it sounds harsh, but lefty often gets forgotten for tasks that don't necessarily NEED two hands but that could be a lot EASIER if two hands were used.

There are four areas of strengthening that we have as homework from this program.  I have a two page program to follow at home, but here are the highlights:

  • Wrist Extension: Place forearm on table so hand hangs off the table, palm down.  We have Reagan lift a 1 pound weight up as far as she can.  Let it drop as far as she can between lifts.  We are supposed to do 5 sets of 20 every other day.  Our focus should be to encourage her to lift her hand/wrist higher as she gets stronger.
  • Finger Strength: With wrist extended to at least neutral, squeeze a squishy ball or play doh or hold onto a top or toy against some resistance.  Try to complete 5 sets of 20 every other day.
  • Shoulder flexion: Raise arm fully above head to reach for objects.  Aim for 5 sets of 20 every other day.
  • Weight bearing: Yoga continues to be a great way to do weight bearing through her arm with an extended wrist and elbow. It's also an excellent overall strengthening activity.
As far as future sessions here at UVA Children's Hospital, we will come back in 6 months and again in a year for another assessment to meet the requirements of the study.  Unfortunately…which I didn't realize…we can't do ANY constraint therapy for a year from the day we finish this session (today).  That means she won't be able to do CIT next summer unless she misses school..which I am not willing to do.  I spoke with Sue and she would really like to see Reagan participate in electrical stimulation for her hand.  We've considered this for her leg, but haven't discussed it for her hand.  Unfortunately, we need an "intensive" program (multiple hours for multiple days) in order to justify the drive to Charlottesville.  Needless to say we will be investigating our options for next summer and I'm sure there will be more to come about that!

And although therapy is done, Reagan is scheduled for a four hour assessment tomorrow similar to the one she had on our first day.  We are hoping it will be just as short as the first one too!  Luckily I was able to schedule Cole for therapy tomorrow during Reagan's assessment so we'll get everything done in the morning and head home.  He has been very receptive to the therapists here so I'm excited he has been able to "play" too.  Every day when Reagan goes to therapy he says, "do I get to go too?"  Glad he likes it more than Reagan did at his age!

As I think about the last month and how much progress we've made it seems fitting that today is the 5 year anniversary of Reagan's brain surgery.
I remember this day like it was yesterday.  I was scared to death watching my 2 month old get wheeled away.  I had no idea how hard it would be to see her intubated (tube down her throat) and lying on a hospital bed and not be able to pick her up and tell her it was all going to be ok….because we had no idea if it was going to be ok.  And I had no idea when the surgeon said "she may be a little weaker on her left side" that she meant Reagan would have Cerebral Palsy and would face years of grueling therapy.  I think about the fact that Reagan has been going to weekly and eventually twice weekly therapy sessions since she was 3 months old.  I think about how she used to fight the therapist.  She would cry.  I would cry.  And I would doubt…I would doubt whether all this time and emotional pain was going to help her or ever make a difference.

But shortly after our first constraint program in March 2013 I have not doubted for ONE DAY that the time, the tears, and the fights that we have endured together are worth EVERYTHING for the amazing progress that we have seen.  I went from thinking a weak left hand meant it would not be as strong….to realizing it meant that it may never work.  But when I look at where she was 5 years ago today to where she is now, I am literally blown away at the miracle of the human brain and the power of persistence. I feel so blessed to be her mom….

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

UVA Constraint Therapy ~ Day 11

We had a relaxing morning since Cole started therapy at 11am.  Cole spent more time cutting and playing games.  Unfortunately Mr. Alan said he was much more distractible today, but they had a good session regardless.  After his therapy he and I came back to the hotel room and had a quick lunch with Reagan and Emily before heading back to the hospital at 1pm for Reagan's therapy.  It was SO nice having Emily here again this week so I was able to take just one at a time to their appointments.  Reagan spent more time building forts and making a "cranky."  She started the construction yesterday by painting the box, sprinkling Pixie dust, cutting the story paper and drawing the story of Tinkerbell's Adventure.

Well it was bound to happen eventually.  She had a tough day at therapy.  Unfortunately she struggled a little more and left extremely cranky….no pun intended.  You would think being without the splint would make this week EASIER, but Ms. Sue said she was really pushing Reagan today.  For example, if she picked anything up without the wrist extension she would make her put it down and try again.

Today she rolled the story paper onto sticks and inserted them into the box to CRANK the story.  What a cute idea!  Reagan even made a little handle on the left side to hold with her left hand!  She's very proud of her "cranky" and can't WAIT to read the story to her grand parents and show them how the story unravels as you crank the sticks.

After therapy today we decided to take a trip to get Kohr's Bros Frozen Custard.  It was amazing!  Unfortunately Cole slept through the entire visit including the ice cream AND the carousel!  But he was super cranky too so he needed the rest.  After ice cream we took the kids to the Fashion Square Mall to play at the indoor playground.  They played, met a bunch of new friends, we had dinner, and headed back to the hotel in a pouring down rain storm to get to bed and do it all again tomorrow! As hard as this day was, I was the lucky mom who got to put two kids to bed who were all smiles after bath time.  And those smiles are what make everything all better….

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

UVA Constraint Therapy ~ Day 10

Well we have kicked off the last week of constraint therapy…although given the conditions on the research study Reagan will be doing all bi-manual tasks this week and will not wear the splint at all.  Although I am extremely disappointed that I feel like we're "losing" an entire week, I am a psychologist at heart who knows the value of research and I understand the process.  No matter how you look at it, however, she's is getting almost 9 hours of therapy this week and that's 8 hours more than she would get if we were at home.  So it's still a win in my book!

She had a fun session today doing more work with the marbles and tube and building a "cranky" box.  Given it's still drying, I will wait to post pictures until tomorrow and keep that project a surprise.  To give you a hint it involves a Tinkerbell Adventure, a green cardboard box and a crank.

Cole had a lot of fun playing with the new train set that was delivered to the waiting room.  He was enamored with it!  And lucky for us he was well entertained since our hotel room wasn't ready until after 3pm.  I was only able to get him on the therapy schedule on Wednesday and Friday so today was all play time for Cole!

After therapy we were able to finally check into our room and then did a little shopping.  First we went to Birds Unlimited and unfortunately there were no birds or bird food…bizarre as that sounds.  And apparently our "touchy fingers" apparently did not make us ideal shoppers so we quickly exited the store before I said something rude and the police had to be called.  Then we found a music store nearby that was a little more "forgiving" but it was still a LOT of temptation to play all those beautiful…and expensive…instruments and after purchasing a triangle and a rubbing stick we exited quickly to find dinner.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the new musical instruments for our stage in the basement at home, but I will try to post some tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

UVA Constraint Therapy ~ Day 9

Another great day ends week three and we're 75% done.  We started our day with a trip to Great Harvest Bread Company to get a little treat as a thank you to Ms. Ruth.  This was her last week with us since she will be on vacation next week.  Then we took a trip to a new playground that we found about two miles from our hotel.  We had a great time there and were able to work on several strengthening activities.

It is very difficult for Reagan to hold onto something with her left hand and lean out with her right.  Although she has gotten much better at holding on, it is very difficult if her weight is on it.  As you can see in this picture, this playground had little platforms and you had to jump from one to the next and hold onto the vertical poles.  Reagan had to really stretch to reach from one to the next.  Her default position is to keep her left elbow bent.  It took several times across the lily pads to get a good stretch in her left arm and allow it to extend, but she did it!  We are definitely going back there next week!

Reagan and I left the park to go to therapy at 1pm and Emily stayed with Cole so he could play in the splash pad in his bathing suit.  I was VERY impressed that Reagan left willingly.  She knew she was going to therapy and he was staying for the water park.  This really speaks volumes if you ask me.  It shows that either she is enjoying therapy this time around, or perhaps she is recognizing how much progress she is making while she is there.  Either way, we are seeing progress.  You can see her pushing the phone button here - not something she could do last week.  She still can't keep her finger straight and it still collapses, but she is able to get it working!!  She also built that Wild West covered wagon one piece at a time.  Each styrofoam pipe, every magnetic ball connector and every clip for the fabric.  And not only put it together, but put it all away one by one!

Ruth was also very exited to show me a new trick Reagan learned today.  She had to use a card board tube to pick up a marble buried in rice with her left hand.  The trick is that she has to rotate her wrist one way to pick up the marble and rotate her wrist the other direction to allow the marble to slide into the jar of marbles.  Although very challenging, she worked very hard and we are looking forward to more new challenges next week!